Archive for the ‘ Sales ’ Category

How Salesforce Admins Solved the Email Integration Problem.

This post is going to break a blogging rule. I’m going to cover 2 topics. Gasp. If you want to know “How did Salesforce Admins solve the email integration problem?” Here’s the short answer: They pointed out the technical underpinnings within our product and told us “that’s what we need!.” The longer answer requires some background and is my other topic which answers the question “Hey, how was Dreamforce?”

As a bootstrapped start-up, deciding to attend and exhibit at a major conference is not easy. I made the decision despite believing that big events are one of the least productive ways to fill a pipeline. Over my career, I’ve attended and exhibited at hundreds of big events, they simply are not the best lead generation tool. In order to make an event worthwhile, you must have multi-dimensional objectives.

The Banana is not with us!

Tiny Booth. Big Story. Openera exhibited at Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference in San Francisco  a month ago. Our objectives included:

  • validate market assumptions,
  • collect market intelligence,
  • solicit influential support,
  • access and quickly navigate the partner ecosystem,
  • and yes, meet potential customers and partners.

The question we keep asking ourselves is this: “was it worth it?” Immediately after exhibiting at an event like Dreamforce it is hard to tell if it was worth the time, money and effort. With a month of activity behind us since the event we know a lot more than we did when we wrapped up Dreamforce.

Measurable Results  With over 1500 leads, hundreds of sign-ups and roughly 5 solid, multi-user opportunities poised to close, we can say it was definitely worth it. I couldn’t have said that the day after the event. If I measured solely based on our pre-event objectives however, we failed.

Unrealized Goals or The Missing Execs

One of our unrealized goals was to meet with a good percentage of the 1/3 of the attendees that were supposedly Directors and VP’s of sales to validate our GutCheck offering. (GutCheck solves the “I don’t trust my sales reps forecast” problem.) The vast majority of attendees we spent time with were Salesforce admins or integrators. VP’s and Directors of Sales were not walking the floor of the exhibit hall, they were sitting comfortably in the executive lounges sipping espresso’s.  This was a major disappointment.

Of all the people we spoke to, only about 20 people actually ran sales teams. So, I am not comfortable making assumptions based on such a small sample audience. However, here’s what they had to say: of the sales leaders that we had an opportunity to explain the GutCheck value proposition, almost all agreed with the statement that “sales rep’s forecasts aren’t very reliable or trustworthy.” Roughly 80% of the sales leaders that didn’t trust their reps forecasts, would invest in a tool like GutCheck to validate forecast accuracy. A small percentage (ok, it was one vocal person) didn’t believe that we could do what we say we can do. (I love a challenge!)

Salesforce admins rock. They changed our minds and helped us focus.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of system administrators we spoke with considered forecast accuracy only  “a minor problem.” Even though they agreed with the statement that “forecasts aren’t reliable” and what sales reps enter into their forecasts don’t reflect reality.” 

Salesforce admins we spoke to care about the integrity/interoperability of the system, data quality/completeness and user adoption. Salesforce Admins & Integrators got excited when we explained how we GutCheck a forecast. The fact that we automate the ingestion of email conversations and content into Salesforce was of high value. They didn’t necessarily care about the GutCheck value proposition, they cared a lot about the underlying technology (SmartCloud) that enabled GutCheck.

Salesforce Admins Solved The Problem of Email Integration |  Because of this real world feedback, validated by our pipeline activity and follow-up conversations, Openera is adjusting/focusing our development. Although GutCheck relied on SmartCloud, we are focussing on SmartCloud for Salesforce to solve the email conversation and content problem first. We still believe that sales leaders responsible for forecasting want a solution to poor quality forecasts. For now, our focus is on SmartCloud. (Note: GutCheck will continue as a value-added, packaged service offering through our SmartCloud implementation partners and through the AppExchange relatively soon.) 

Build – Measure – Learn

With lessons learned from the lean start-up model, championed by Steve Blank, Eric Reis, Ash Mauria and others, but modified for the enterprise, we have consumed customer data and altered our development strategy. Was it a pivot? Not really. But the insight into our customers motivations informed our decision to focus our development efforts on the immediate, high value pain point of email conversation and content integration with Salesforce. I’ve estimated the amount of development time this decision has saved, and it far outweighs our investment. Coupled with our post-event research, we are able to make this decision based on data pulled from a great sample audience, not just our gut. That alone made Dreamforce worthwhile.

A VIDEO | I’ll leave you with this ‘work-in-progress’ video of what we did the first thing in the morning before Mark Benioff’s keynote. We wanted to wake the groggy, hungover masses up and get them to smile. In case you were wondering, Metallica was the headliner for the after party…reportedly paid $1.4M to play the event… so for this preview, I borrowed a track from them for this “work-in-progress” version of the video. Obviously, we’ll use royalty free music for the official version… when it’s ready for release. Enjoy.

You’re PERFECT! Now Change!

I’ve hired hundreds of employees over the years and a lot have been sales reps. I’ve always tried to find the right person for the right job. Don’t we all? However, once we’ve spent all that time and money finding and then hiring the right person, what do we do once they start? We ask them to change.

“ok, I know you were really successful selling your way, but spend the first 30 days learning our sales processes, methodologies and systems.” Sound familiar?

Why change high performing reps?

What made the last five high performing sales reps you hired great? Was it that they could follow a process really well? Take orders? Do what they are told to do? Or were they highly motivated, engaged reps who delivered results no matter what? They probably did things their own way and not the way everyone else did the job. You hire great salespeople because they can SELL. Not because they can do administrative tasks really well and keep their forecasts up-to-date.

So why do we always ask sales people to bend to the will of the process? If we are honest with ourselves, it’s because we want good forecasts. We want better visibility into activity, pipeline and manage a predictable revenue stream. That’s the dream, that’s why we buy expensive CRM systems. It’s not for the reps to be more productive, even though that’s what we tell ourselves and the team. Don’t get me wrong, CRM systems will increase productivity. CRM’s are vital for high volume, transactional, inside sale roles. But you don’t hire high-priced sales talent to fill those roles. Complex sales cycles demand that you hire performing sales reps that can navigate and manage a complex sales cycle. So, why would you try to change great sales reps and mess with the process that got them to that performance level in the first place?

Isn’t there a better way?

As someone having built and led many sales teams, I asked myself;

“how can I get the information I need, without changing the way reps work? How can we get technology out of their way?

“The best sales reps that I know have a laptop and a smart phone. They live in email, on prospecting calls and in client meetings. That’s exactly where I want them to spend their time. ”

To get the returns companies need on their sales rep investment, sales people must focus on what they do best – selling. Frustrating systems and time updating the CRM and massaging forecasts is valuable sales time – wasted.

Do your reps have to change the way they work to get you the information you need for a trustworthy forecast? What strategies, systems, or processes have you deployed to be able to forecast accurately, and how is it working out?

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